the name Chefís Take Out suggests, it began as a takeout business.
This was five years ago, when chef-owner Gerry Cunsolo decided
to offer customers the opportunity to enjoy at their own homes
the cooking he grew up with at his home. But people do like
to dine out, so about a year ago he took advantage of a newly
empty next-door space to expand and offer table service.
The result is a comfortable hybrid, with anything from pizzas
to full dinners crossing the takeout counter, which is what
youíll see upon entering, to a more relaxed dining room where
youíll enjoy the same meals but with a styrofoam delay.
And thatís because the portions are so gravity-defying large
that youíll still leave laden with takeout containers.
Carmen Plaza sits on a stretch of Route 146 between Guilderland
and Schenectady, home to the usual strip-mall array, and itís
obviously a work in progress, with several vacant spots awaiting
tenantry. The huddle of cars in front of Chefís Take Out when
we visited made it easy enough to find, although the huge
signs promising pasta and pizza also helped.
We were put through an interesting phenomenon Iím sure youíve
noticed often. Despite the several empty tables in the dining
roomís center, any one of which comfortably would have seated
our threesome, we had to wait until a booth was cleaned and
reset. Booths run along two of the roomís walls, and thatís
where most of the diners were seated (the exception was a
six-top at the back of the room).
Once there, we settled in comfortably and did a small amount
of follow-up waiting. Once we placed our orders, however,
food came out right on schedule and we had plenty of between-courses
Thereís no better way to showcase homemade bread than with
sandwiches, and a list of $8 panini features sausage and peppers,
chicken or eggplant parmigiana, grilled chicken, an Italian
cold-cut mix, an eggplant-based vegetarian sandwich and more.
As we studied the menu, what looked like a small bus going
by turned out to be somebody elseís order of lasagna ($13).
Itís in the baked-specialties section, where youíll also find
baked ziti ($12) or tortellini ($13), stuffed shells ($12),
eggplant ($14) or chicken ($15) parmigiana and the item I
ordered: chicken gondola ($15), which our server noted was
one of the more popular dishes.
I can see why. Itís really for the customer torn between parmigianas,
because it features chicken wrapped in eggplant, stuffed with
ricotta, and served with meat sauce and melted cheese. Thereís
little it doesnít accomplish. Served with a side of penne
and more meat sauce, itís a total carbs fest, something from
which I mined two more meals.
Although my daughter is a fried calamari fan, it has more
to do with the crunch than the critter. She ordered an appetizer
plate ($9) and was daunted to see far more in the way of tentacles
than of rings, but nevertheless made a brave show of dipping
them in the accompanying sauce and enjoying them. I liked
the breading, which tasted of both cornmeal and flour.
Garlic bread, garlic knots, fried mozzarella and greens-and-beans
are other starters, in the $4 to $7 range; we also ordered
a plate of bruschetta ($7), another showcase for the restaurantís
Huge portion. No surprise. Awkward to eat, with the chunks
of tomatoes and garlic cascading off the tops of the thick-sliced
bread. Worth the effort. And they stand up to at-home reheating
if you reheat just the bread in your oven.
Most of the entrťes come with a soup or salad and a side of
pasta, so pace yourself. The four $18 veal dishes have it
prepared parmigiana, Sorrento, marsala, or cacciatore; the
last three are repeated with chicken ($15) in addition to
some other poultry preps.
My wife, the chicken fiend, ordered the Sorrento, which proved
a close cousin to my entrťe: This time the chicken was layered
with eggplant and finished with sauce and cheese. Given the
obscuring pools of topping under which the ingredients sit,
we couldnít easily tell the leftovers apart.
Those side salads are straightforward compotes featuring fresh
Romaine lettuce, but I want to give a special nod to the
pasta e fagioli soup we sampled. Itís a common enough
brew for a place like this, but here the flavor was more outspoken
than usual, which a hearty soup like this requires.
And let me also praise the meat sauce. When youíve been red-sauced
to death in restaurant after restaurant, itís a struggle to
get noticed. This one is dark and rich with a compelling sweetness
that reveals itself slowly.
This is the sauce behind the Bolognese, available on the pasta
menu with your choice of noodle. My daughter had penne and
added a couple of meatballs ($13). Pasta also can be prepared
with a marinara ($10.25) or garlic and oil ($12), or try the
fettuccine Alfredo ($13), fettuccine carbonara ($14), linguine
Florentine ($13) or tortellini della casa (mushrooms and tomatoes
in a cream sauce, $14), among others.
We passed over the steaks (two preparations of sirloin, $21
each) and seafood dishes (shrimp, clams or calamari, $17-$18).
And we regret not sampling the pizza. We saw one go by after
we already were at capacity.
Every community needs a good restaurant like this. Based on
the customer traffic we saw, itís clear that this one has
become a Guilderland-area favorite.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
a tasting of microbrewery beer at the Village
Pizzeria, 2727 Route 29, East Galway, at 7
PM tonight (Thursday). This is special event to
benefit the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which
takes place this weekend in Boston and is slated
at other cities throughout the country during
the year. Pizzeria co-owner Sandy Foster, herself
a cancer survivor, participated in last yearís
walk and is eager to repeat her success. The restaurant
will offer an array of appetizers, including many
of its signature dishes, and patio seating will
be available. The cost is $25, and you can call
882-9431 for more info. . . . The Honest Weight
Food Co-op (484 Central Ave., Albany) is offering
a class in garden planting with Sandy Winn from
noon to 2 PM on Sunday, May 18 at the HWFC community
room. Winn, who cultivates three acres in the
Helderberg Mountain foothills, gardens with vegetables,
herbs, bulbs, annuals, perennials, ornamental
bushes, fruit bushes and trees. The free class
is for both experienced and inexperienced diggers.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
(food at banilsson.com).